Three Weeks Out: My 2021 AT Thru-Hike Gear List

Alright, let’s talk gear.

I think this goes without saying, but a backpacker’s gear is very important to them. I believe that having the proper gear that you feel comfortable using is vital for any backpacking outing, let alone a thru-hike. As I write this post from my parent’s house, I am exactly three weeks away from beginning my northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In this post, I will be sharing with you everything that I will be bringing with me on my hike.

Somewhere In-Between Ultralight and Heavyweight

There is no denying the obsession with ultralight gear that has taken the backpacking world by storm in the past couple of years. Sacrificing stoves for cold-soaking, tents without poles, and frameless packs are just a few examples of measures long-distance backpackers are taking to lower their base weight (everything you carry minus food, fuel, and water). An ultralight backpacker typically has a base weight of 10 pounds or less. Then there are the polar opposites; the heavyweight backpackers who pack way more than they actually need, and end up looking like sherpas carrying gear for tourists up Everest. People tend to pack their fears on backpacking trips, and this can result in having a base weight of 30, even 40 pounds.

Then there’s the lightweight setup, which I think is the category that most backpackers tend to fall in, including myself. I am not obsessed with shedding every ounce that I can in my pack, but I am certainly making a conscious effort to keep my weight down by bringing only the essentials, plus a few luxury items. Having a base weight as light as possible makes a backpacking trip more enjoyable, and lessens the chance of injury.

The Big Three

A backpacker’s big three consists of their pack, shelter, and sleeping bag+pad. The backpack that I am taking with me on my hike is a North Face Terra 60 Liter, which has been the pack that I have used on every outing I have gone on. My pack, when empty, weighs 4 pounds, 8 ounces, which I am sure is making ultralight backpackers cringe.

Ultralight backpackers typically carry packs without frames, resulting in packs that weigh 1-2 pounds when empty. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t browsed some of the ultralight Hyperlite Mountain Gear or Zpacks backpacks, but I never ended up buying one.

My backpack fits me perfectly, and I find it very comfortable on my shoulders and hips. I enjoy having a 60-liter pack so I can easily fit everything I need on the inside of my pack, with only a couple of items hanging from the outside of my pack. Why risk buying a new pack right before I’m ready to depart, if I have no idea how it will feel on me? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? I figured that I could always buy a new pack on trail if I feel the need to switch to a lighter, frameless option.

The tent I will be using is the Lynx 1 by Alps Mountaineering, weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces with poles and stakes included. Again, this might make ultralight backpackers cringe, but I’m sticking with what I know and what I’m comfortable with. My tent comes with an outstanding rain fly that has kept me completely dry through some intense thunderstorms in the Adirondacks.

Lastly, we have my sleeping bag, which is an Eastern Mountain Sports 35 Degree down bag, weighing in at 2 pounds, 1 ounce. I don’t know what else I can say about this sleeping bag, other than I enjoy sleeping in it. My therm-a-rest inflatable sleeping pad will ensure comfort after a long day of hiking.

Clothing

Starting my thru-hike in late March ensures that I will be avoiding the colder temps that thru-hikers starting in late February/early March are forced to deal with. I know that mountain weather is unpredictable, so I plan on starting off with some cold-weather gear that I can ship home come late April/May. I plan on hiking in Brooks running shorts, compression pants (when needed), a thin sweat-proof Columbia long-sleeve, a three-quarter zip Columbia mid-layer (when needed) and a Columbia neck gaiter (when needed). I also have an Omni-Heat Columbia base layer for the colder mornings, and my Columbia down puff jacket.  No, I’m not sponsored by Columbia, I just enjoy using their gear. But if a representative from Columbia is reading this and wants to sponsor me, I’m down.

If you didn’t already know, it rains quite a bit on the Appalachian Trail. To protect myself from the inevitable days of rain I will encounter, I have a durable North Face rain/wind jacket, and Columbia Omni-Tech rain/wind pants. I will also be bringing water-resistant Columbia Omni-Heat gloves. These gloves are made for the winter, so I may be switching gloves as I make my way further North. For shoes, I’ll be wearing the Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX trail runners with some thick and comfy Columbia hiking socks. A Nike running hat with a sweatband will be joining me as well.

For camp, I have an extra t-shirt that folds down to basically nothing, an extra pair of Columbia hiking socks, and crocs.

Kitchen

For my past trips, I always used the MSR PocketRocket Stove set, which is a great cooking set in my opinion. However, I recently purchased the new Stash from Jetboil, which I’m very stoked about. The Stash weighs only 7 ounces, and boils .5 liters of water in just 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Why would anyone cold soak ramen noodles when you can carry a stove/pot that weighs so little? In addition to the JetBoil Stash, I’ll also be carrying a Sea-To-Summit collapsible cup, because coffee. Gotta have coffee out there.

Miscellaneous/luxury items

GGG Flex-air ultralight pillow

Sawyer Squeeze water filter

2021 AWOL AT guidebook

BAFX Products carbon fiber trekking poles

Chicken Tramper 1L water bottler sleeve (not pictured)

Chicken Tramper chest strap pocket (not pictured)

-Chicken Tramper UL wallet

Foam sit pad from Garage Grown Gear

Black Diamond headlamp

Joy Walker waterproof backpack rain cover

Three Columbia dry bags; a large one for food, a medium-sized one for my camp clothes and down puffy jacket, and a smaller one that will hold my portable charger/charging cords, toothbrush/toothpaste, and my trowel/TP

Adventure Medical Kit ultralight/waterproof first-aid kit

Gerber Gear knife

Total, unofficial base weight= 19 pounds, 9 ounces

On Thursday I plan on doing a 2 day, ~20 mile trip in Harriman State Park for my shakedown hike. This is to determine if there’s anything that I don’t need, or if there is something that I need to add. This is why I consider my base weight unofficial. If any of you have any gear recommendations/tips, I’m all ears.

Follow Along

For those of you who aren’t already, feel free to subscribe to my posts for updates throughout my thru-hike. You can also follow me on Instagram @max.a.kiel. For the Strava users out there, I plan on recording my daily mileage every day to the best of my ability, and you can follow along with that here.

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Comments 5

  • Avatar
    pearwood : Mar 8th

    Hello, Max!
    Rochester Steve here. I’m planning to be on the trail next February (gory details in my posts here).
    I figure I’ll be somewhere in the light-medium weight range. My main requirements for my pack are to be comfortable and easy to pack. I’m going to be living out of it for six months, so it had better be both. Weight is important to me but not as much a functionality.
    Blessings on your way,
    Steve / pearwood

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Max Kiel : Mar 8th

      Thanks, Steve. Always cool to hear from another NY-based hiker.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Steve : Mar 8th

    Hi Max,
    When do Mom and I get our table back😂?

    Reply
  • Avatar
    F5 : Mar 10th

    Good luck Max. I hike with — and always will — a Marmot Tungsten 1P that clocks in at 3 lbs 8 oz, which is, like yours, cringeworthy among the ultralight elite. I’ve hiked with lighter tents, but you know what’s really heavy? Water. Soaked gear weighs a ton, and if your Alps keeps you and your stuff dry, and you like it, you’ve got the right mindset in sticking with it. Have a great hike. Look forward to following along.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Max Kiel : Mar 10th

      Thank you!

      Reply

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